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Life is Like a Vapor
Bible study on the brevity of life.

In my last article we noticed that James compared life to a flower. Later, James compares life with a vapor saying: "For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away" (Jas. 4:14).

The first type of vapor I would like to consider is a cloud. A cloud may be pleasant and beautiful or wretched and ugly. With clouds, we can predict future weather events (rain, overcast, sunny). Clouds are here one moment and gone the next; thus, they are soon forgotten.

Our life is like a cloud. Some people have pleasant and beautiful lives in the Lord while other people have wretched lives which are blackened by unrepentant sin. As with clouds, a person may look at his life and see what the future holds (cf. Jas. 1:23-24). A person who is sowing to the flesh will reap corruption and a person sowing to the Spirit will reap everlasting life (Gal. 6:8). Life is like a cloud that is here one moment and gone the next.

The second type of vapor I would like to consider is a puff of steam. A puff of steam dissipates in one or two seconds - it is here for a brief moment and gone forever.

When will our mortal life seem like a brief moment in time (like a vapor)? Considering that a vapor dissipates in two seconds, I calculated that a mortal life of seventy-two years will seem like it had only lasted for two seconds when we have been in our eternal abode for about four million years.

In this perspective, one may realize the brevity of life. After being in heaven for four million years the trials (cf. Jas. 1:2-4) of mortal life will seem inconsequential. And for sinners, four million years of hell will make the follies of sin seem futile.

In James' epistle, he outlines the effect of comprehending the brevity of life. Someone comprehending and understanding the brevity of life:

  • endures trials with joy (Jas. 1:2-8).
  • endures temptations and does not sin (Jas. 1:12-18).
  • is swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath (Jas. 1:19-20).
  • is a doer of the word and not a hearer only (Jas. 1:21-27).
  • is not prejudice (Jas. 2:1-13).
  • has a living faith perfected by his works (Jas. 2:14-26).
  • has tamed his tongue and therefore his whole body (Jas. 3:1-12).
  • is wise with the wisdom from above (Jas. 3:13-18).
  • has humbly submitted to God (Jas. 4:1-10).
  • does not judge his brother (Jas. 4:11-12).
  • glorifies God and does not boast about tomorrow (Jas. 4:13-17).
  • does not oppress the poor (Jas. 5:1-6).
  • is patient, waiting on the Lord, therefore living righteously in trials (Jas. 5:7-12).
  • is praying and singing (Jas. 5:13).
  • has repented of his sins and prayed for forgiveness (Jas. 5:14-18).
  • cares for others (Jas. 5:19-20).

In a word, a person who comprehends the brevity of life is a person who is ready to die.

Are you ready to die? Have you left anything undone that you would do today if you knew you were going to die tomorrow? If so, you need to do it today. "For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away" (Jas. 4:14).